Constantly I have gotten confused by the fact that a judge can be referred to as a lawyer and same applies to an advocate.
With all the jargon and formal terminology in the legal profession. The tittles held by those in this legal profession can be confusing as the terms they use in the legal proceedings.
How does one get to understand the difference between lawyers, attorneys, advocates, legal administrators, paralegal and so forth.
I have had the privilege to get a more insightful information from a legal practitioner which I will share with you.
Lawyer: The term lawyer is used to refer to a broad spectrum of legal professionals. To elaborate more based on the general definition, a lawyer is any individual who holds an LLB degree.
This means that with your LLB degree you can be referred to as a lawyer only, without any additional qualification or training, you cannot represent a client in a court of law.
However you can become a legal advisor, consultant, paralegal or policy advisor.
Attorney: In South Africa to become an attorney you have to hold a LLB degree. You can then do articles of clerkship also known as service contract. These are done under a practising attorney for a stipulated time.
You will thereafter write a Board Exam of which if you pass, you can apply to the High Court to be admitted as an attorney.
An attorney can specialise in various fields of law of their choice. They can also represent clients in a court of law but not in all circumstances.
Let us meet an Advocate: An advocate is a specialist lawyer who represents clients in a court of law.
To become an advocate, one has to become a member of the Council of the Bar. Unlike an attorney, an advocate does not directly deal with clients – the attorney refers the client to an advocate when the situation requires it.
While attorneys can only represents clients in lower courts in South Africa, advocates can appear on behalf of clients in the higher courts as well.
I will introduce you to a Paralegal: A paralegal works in a legal office and works directly with attorneys in most cases.
They prepare the paperwork that is needed in court, gather documents and assist with other duties.
They also liaise with clients during proceedings.
We close off with an Administrator: An Administrator is responsible for managing all aspects of the daily running of a law firm or legal department.
These duties may include but not limited to these; overseeing the budgeting and payroll operations, managing office space arrangements, gathering supplies and overseeing other clerical employees in the legal department.
Administrators are not the same as ordinary offices administrator it takes a specific training to become one.
If you’re reading this article and you’re not in South Africa or not from South Africa you might still be confused.
Well the confusion might be caused by the fact that countries use different terms for different legal professions.
Also consider that in different countries there are different rules for entering the legal professions.
Some of the terms used in other countries: An attorney is referred to a solicitor, while advocates are referred to as barristers. Administrators are referred to as secretaries and paralegal as law clerk.
By: Xoliswa Magidigidi
This Article was first published on Surge Zirc Nigeria, now modified for Surge Zirc SA readers.